On Sunday morning, President Trump issued a series of defiant tweets where he called for cooperation with Russia on a host of issues following his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Germany at the G20 summit.
Trump said he "strongly pressed" Russian President Vladimir Putin about meddling in the U.S. presidential election, but stopped short of disputing Russian accounts that he accepted Putin's denial.
"I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I've already given my opinion….." the president tweeted, going on to say "it is time to move forward" with Russia.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Germany that Trump took Putin at his word over meddling, and Putin himself said at a press conference that he believes Trump is convinced by his denial. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told Fox News host Chris Wallace on Sunday following Trump's tweets, "The president absolutely did not believe the denial of President Putin,"
Trump also raised eyebrows with a cryptic tweet about the possibility of creating an "impenetrable Cyber Security unit" with Russia. The White House did not immediately provide any details about what such a partnership would look like. Putin told reporters on Saturday the partnership would be a working group "on the subject of jointly controlling security in cyberspace."
Working with Putin on cyber security is a curious statement, considering the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the F.B.I. and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence all agree that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
Trump's Sunday morning comments on Twitter didn't appear to go over well with fellow Republicans, who were quick to criticize his views of Putin and Russia.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) said he thinks Trump has a "blind spot" on Russia, and said the president's plan to work with Putin on cybersecurity is "pretty close" to the "dumbest idea I've ever heard."
"When it comes to Russia I am dumbfounded, I am disappointed, and at the end of the day he's hurting his presidency by not embracing the fact that Putin is a bad guy," Graham told NBC Meet the Press host Chuck Todd. "He is literally the only person I know of who doesn't believe Russia attacked our election in 2016."
Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) also called out Trump for even considering to work with Putin, claiming it was akin to working with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on a "Chemical Weapons Unit."
Former George W. Bush speech writer David Frum said Trump's comments appear to give Putin a "greenlight" to interfere in next year's congressional elections.
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R, Wisc.) also weighed in on Trump's comments, pointing out that working with Putin on Syria and other issues risks "glossing over" serious concerns about Russia's invasion of Ukraine and hacking.
Security officials were also quick to criticize Trump's comments. Former Defense Secretary and Philadelphia native Ash Carter also called out Trump's decision to work with Putin on cybersecurity, telling CNN State of the Union guest host Dana Bash that it's akin to "the guy who robbed your house proposing a working group on burglary."
Former CIA Director John Brennan said Trump's refusal to acknowledge Russia's interference in the U.S. election is "dishonorable."
"I seriously question whether or not Mr. Putin heard from Mr. Trump what he needed to about the assault on our democratic institutions of the election," Brennan said on Meet the Press. "I don't think he demonstrates good negotiating skills when it comes to Mr. Putin."
Trump's comments come after government officials told the Washington Post that Russian government hackers were behind recent cyber-attacks that penetrated energy and nuclear company business networks, a sign that Russia is trying to lay the groundwork for more damaging hacks in the future.